Non-biological. Nonliving, inanimate, characterised by the absence of life; Of inorganic matter.


Adaptation in response to various non-biological elements in the ecosystem.

Acid rain

A complex chemical and atmospheric phenomenon that occurs when emissions of sulphur and nitrogen compounds and other substances are transformed by chemical processes in the atmosphere, often far from the original sources, and then deposited on earth in either a wet or a dry form. The wet forms, popularly called “acid rain,” can fall as rain, snow, or fog. The dry forms are acidic gases or particulates.

Action level

A guideline established by environmental protection agencies to identify the concentration of a substance in a particular medium (water, soil, etc.) that may present a health risk when exceeded. If contaminants are found at concentrations above their action levels, measures must be taken to decrease the contamination.

Activated Carbon

A highly adsorbent form of carbon used to remove odours and toxic substances from liquid or gaseous emissions. In waste treatment, it is used to remove dissolved organic matter from wastewater. It is also used in motor vehicle evaporative control systems.

Activated Sludge

A term used to describe sludge that contains microorganisms that break down organic contaminants (e.g., benzene) in liquid waste streams to simpler substances such as water and carbon dioxide. It is also the product formed when raw sewage is mixed with bacteria-laden sludge, then stirred and aerated to destroy organic matter.


Changes in an organism’s structure or habit that help it adjust to its surroundings.

Adaptive Radiation

A group of organisms which spread in various directions and into various environments.


Behavioural changes to the social organisation.

Advisory Level

The level above which an environmental protection agency suggests it is potentially harmful to be exposed to a contaminant, although no action is mandated.


A device for introducing air into a liquid, either submerged or surface.


Vegetable dust and pollen suspended in the air which cause allergic diseases such as hay fever.


Living or active in the presence of free oxygen.


A small particle of solid or liquid matter suspended in the atmosphere. Aerosols are classified into smoke, fumes, dust and mists.



The building up of land by the deposition of material.

Air Flux

The rate at which a chemical changes from a liquid to gas. It is also known as "Volatilisation."

Air Pollution

The contamination of the atmosphere with undesirable solids, liquids and gases.


The fraction of incoming solar energy which is reflected directly without being absorbed.


Simple plants, containing chlorophyll and⁄or photosynthetic pigments, found widely in water and other damp situations.


Populations with separate dispersal areas.


Sediment transported by streams and deposited on land.

Alpha Diversity

Diversity occurring as a result of competition between species in more favourable environments.

Alternative Energy

Energy that is not popularly used and is usually environmentally sound, such as solar or wind energy (as opposed to fossil fuels).


A term applied to traits which have been selected because of their effects on group rather then individual survival

Ambient air

Refers to the surrounding air. Generally, ambient air refers to air outside and surrounding an air pollution source location. Often used interchangeably with "outdoor air."

Anabatic Wind

or mountain wind. Caused by air being warmed by contact with the sloping ground during daytime and flowing uphill.

Anadromous Fish

Fish which spend most of its growing years in the ocean and, once sexual maturity is reached, ascends freshwater streams in order to spawn.


Living or active in the absence of free oxygen. An anaerobic process is one taking place in the absence of oxygen.


A deviation from uniformity.

Antagonistic Effect

The Tendency of some chemicals and process to react together to form combinations which may have a less powerful effect than the substances or process taken separately.


A region that falls within the Antarctic Circle around the Earth's South Pole. The Antarctic comprises in the strict sense all of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude. In a broader sense the Antarctic region include the ice shelves, waters, and island territories in the Southern Ocean situated south of the Antarctic Convergence, a zone approximately 32 to 48 kilometres wide varying in latitude seasonally. The region covers some 20% of the Southern Hemisphere, of which 5.5% (14 million km2) is the surface area of the Antarctic continent itself.


A secondary biotic substance secreted by an organism which inhibits growth in other organisms.


A geological formation of rock or soil which, although porous and capable of absorbing water slowly, will not transmit it fast enough to furnish an appreciable supply for a spring or well.


A geological formation or porous soil through which water may percolate for long distances yielding ground water to springs and wells.


A geological formation of rock or soil which retards the movement of ground water.


Relating to trees. Arboriculture is concerned with forestry and the culture of tress.


A region that falls within the Arctic Circle around the Earth's North Pole. The edge of that circle is defined as the northernmost point at which the sun is visible on the northern winter solstice and the southernmost point at which the midnight sun can be seen on the northern summer solstice.


A phylum of invertebrate animals with jointed limbs and a segmented body, generally covered with a chitinous shell.

Artificial Reef

A method of solid waste disposal, which comprises the tipping of junk and debris such as car bodies, used tyres, ship hulks and other materials into deep water.


A broad term embracing several fibrous minerals with chrysotile, a hydrated magnesium silicate, being the most common form.


A disease of the lungs caused by the inhalation of asbestos particles.


A conceptual grouping of populations in a community characterised by particular dominant species.


The gaseous envelope of air surrounding the earth.

Australasian Region

The biogeographical region comprising Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, some eastern Indonesian Islands and some Pacific Islands.

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